Making team work come alive in a multi-generational workforce

June 18, 2018 Juliet Strong

Today’s employees work in twice as many teams as they did five years ago and spend 50% more time on team working activities than two decades ago. And yet, many organisations still face major changes when it comes to ensuring people work together effectively. We all love teams. So what’s hindering teamwork?

The truth is that we’re all so different. As people start living – and working – longer, there are more generations in the workplace than ever before. In many organisations, the age or workers can range from 18 to 80 – and helping them collaborate isn’t always easy.  

This difference is amplified by the growth of dispersed teams. As organisational structures become more complex and individuals work across many different teams, it can be difficult to ensure that priorities and ways of working are aligned. Within larger, more complex organisations, this problem is even more acute as it can be difficult to share information and make smart decisions when large numbers of stakeholders are involved. 

And it’s not just people that are diversifying. The ways in which we work are also changing. On an average day, most people have to switch seamlessly between conference calls, face to face meetings, informal chats and solo work. And yet, they often lack the right devices and work spaces to support these activities and ensure a smooth transition from one to another. 

So whilst many of us work in environments where teams are valued, some never have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  

 Who are your key multi-generational players? 

By 2020, millennials will make up 50% of the UK workforce, and many organisations are modelling their workplaces and working habits on Millennial needs. But statistics like this hide the fact that most workplaces are generationally diverse. Veterans. Baby Boomers. Gen X. Millennials. And now, the emergence of Gen Z. And while diversity is a valuable thing, there are ways in which it is hindering our ability to work in teams. 

People naturally prefer interacting with colleagues of a similar age, experience and profile – that’s why many management teams are made up of middle-aged white men. But the strongest, most flexible teams are built on the principle of bringing diverse types of people together. And to do that you effectively need to understand those differences and how they interact: 

  • Great in person – 78% of baby boomers prefer face-to-face communication. Only 58% of millennials feel the same. 
  • Digital or die – Millennials find digital channels – SMS, Skype and WhatsApp more comfortable and productive.  
  • Hot on hierarchy – Boomers are more used to formal organisational hierarchies, while many Millennials aspire to the flat structures of startups. 
  • Harder to impress – Often forgotten is Generation X – they’re the next generation of leaders. But there are fewer of them and they’re harder to engage than the generations that follow them. 

Creating powerful creativity from diversity 

So, how can organisations bring these different generations together to create powerful teams? There are really only two main steps you need to take:  

  1. Provide the right tools – For dispersed teams to work well together and feel closer, you need the right digital tools in place across your organisation. Above all, choice is key. You must give your people options, so they can work together how they want. 
  1. Empower decision-making – People prefer the tools and structures that make them feel empowered to do their jobs. To ensure decision-makers can get the information they need quickly, ensure management structures are clearly defined – but flat. Keep communication channels open, ensuring people can access and share the information they need, no matter what department they work in. 

Most of the tools needed to achieve these steps already exist – in fact, some of them are already in use within a typical organisation. So why aren’t they having an effect? Because having access to the right tools is different from knowing how to use them effectively –and this is where many organisations fall down.  

At New Signature, we specialise in helping organisations to leverage the right teamwork tools AND learn how to make the most out of them. We plan, adopt and manage modern workplace collaboration solutions based on a deep understanding of business objectives and employee needs. The result is a combination of tools that can meet the needs and work styles of everyone in your diverse workforce. 

To learn more about how we can help empower your multi-generational workforce through teams, download our eBook today. You can also get your team actively involved in the discussion by sharing our debaticle with them. 

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